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Interview with Ralph Fiennes

HBO

Both of these characters are fascinating. What drew you to Bernard?

Ralph Fiennes

When I first read the script, I didn't even know who Doris Duke was, and I had never heard of Bernard Lafferty. For me, it's a story about someone having the courage to be who they are. I was moved by the fact that she gave him the blessing to sort of be who he is.

HBO

How did you go about discovering what drives him?

I was moved by the fact that she gave him the blessing to sort of be who he is.

Ralph Fiennes

Well, he's a lonely man I think. I always saw him as sort of a lost figure drifting from one job to the next. Physically he's very different to me. But (director) Bob Balaban said, look, we're going to call you Bernard and Doris. This is loosely their story. He was suspected of expediting Doris' death. And Bob did speak to someone who knew her who said that he was an absolute villain. But if you look at the documentary that was done on Bernard, there were people interviewed who said he absolutely adored her, that she was like a mother figure to him, and that he cared about her hugely.

He did say that he loved his expense account and he his expensive shirts and watches and other things that she gave him. But I quite like the way Bob's handled it, is that it is a bit ambivalent at the end. But I played it that I adored Susan. And the audience can decide whether it's suspicious or not, but in my head, I felt Bernard loved her.

HBO

What are you drawn to in a role?

Ralph Fiennes

It's hard to say. I just go on an instinct, kind of a feeling I have. I suppose as an actor you look for variety. I love the challenge of variation. And usually if the characters are contradictory, it's more interesting.

HBO

What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

We were always treading a tightrope of what were our own original inventions, which gave us the freedom to create, and also referring back to what public information there was about Bernard and Doris.

Ralph Fiennes

I think you can only hope that they're intrigued by the characters and the way this friendship slowly unfolds, and their platonic love for one another. The drama isn't particularly high octane. But I think people will be intrigued by this relationship.

Susan's a wonderful performer and Doris is a very entertaining person to watch. She's very regal and idiosyncratic. So I think the drama is how she starts off hardly noticing Bernard and then slowly she starts to be drawn to him and for the audience, that's when they begin to wonder, where is this headed?

We were always treading a tightrope of what were our own original inventions, which gave us the freedom to create, and also referring back to what public information there was about Bernard and Doris. Ultimately, I hope audiences are moved by it.

Bernard and Doris

HBO Films

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Photos Doris yellow sweater looking up

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